DHS commission’s actions to close centers is irresponsible

Contact: Trish Frazier (405) 818-3008
Nov. 1, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY – At a Department of Human Services commission meeting today, a vote was taken to close both state residential centers for adults with developmental disabilities.

Both the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center in Enid and the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley will be shuttered.

This removes 231 residents with special needs that have called these centers home for decades, as well as a loss of jobs for a host of dedicated, hard-working state employees. The facilities have served as a safety net for the developmentally disabled that was already well under the national average. For example, in 2009, the state average daily population of persons with disabilities living in state-operated facilities was 660 nationally. If the facilities are closed, Oklahoma will have no safety net for these citizens.

The tenor and tone of the meeting was unfortunate. The commission did not allow public comments to hear from family members of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Also, stakeholders were not given an opportunity to review the plan and provide input prior to the vote.

“OPEA is disappointed that the commission is taking action on an issue of such importance a few days before this board might be voted out of existence via State Question 765,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “After all that has transpired in this and other issues, we were under the impression that the culture had changed to that of inclusion and transparency.”

This move is a stunning turn of events from previous news related to the residential centers. As recently as June, the plan was to close only the Pauls Valley center, with the transferal of most of those residents to the Enid location. This last-minute change has kept everyone from being able to respond to the commission in a proper manner.

“This is just an unfortunate turn of events,” Zearley said. “The actions today reek of desperation and a lack of transparency of a commission that could be voted out of existence next Tuesday. We believe the closure of both centers threatens our state’s most defenseless citizens and that’s just wrong.”

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